My Goodness

Issue 20 | August 2011

As always at Cannes, pro-bono campaigns did well.

In fact, if they had been allowed to, the Direct jury would have given JWT New York their Grand Prix for the Human Rights Watch installation ‘Burma’.

Because it’s essentially unfair that ideas designed for commercial purposes should be judged alongside ideas designed to tug the heartstrings, the Festival organisation has banned charity campaigns from winning the big prizes.

Instead, they have come up with the Grand Prix for Good.

This year the winner was Leo Burnett Melbourne for SCOPE. The charity bases most of its communications around the thought ‘See the person, not the disability’.

What they did was get behind the band Rudely Interrupted, helping them shoot their first video and promoting their concert tour.

The vid is shot with pencil thin beams of light so it is a slow reveal that the six band members are, in different ways, disabled. By that stage you’ve been getting into the music for several minutes and regardless of whether you like or dislike it, what you’ve done is seen the people, not their disabilities.

The shocking truth

Agencies enjoy doing pro-bono work.

Bill Hicks called us ‘Satan’s spawn’. When we do good works it makes us feel better about ourselves.

Daniel Morel, CEO of Wunderman, revealed at Cannes that every Wunderman agency has to have a charity account. In other words, agency managers know that doing pro-bono work is important for morale and in defining agency culture.

Apart from anything, great charity work allows agencies to offer proof to more risk-averse marketers that creativity works.

It’s not unreasonable for agency bosses to want some sort of payback.

Herve De Clerck, in the ACT Responsible seminar, told the true story of a Chief Creative Officer who informed his CEO that to score higher in The Big Won annual creativity rankings, they had to invest more time and money in doing free work.

He seemed shocked.

But why?

It is not venal to expect there to be measurable KPI’s for both creator and recipient of pro-bono campaigns. In fact, when there are no objectives other than to do ‘nice work’, the work itself is usually two-dimensional and of little value.

The truth is, agencies like working for charities because they hope it will help them grow their reputation, which, in turn will grow business.

It’s how small agencies become large. Look at Droga5. It became famous through its work for UNICEF, for the New York Education Trust and for helping Obama get elected with ‘The Great Schlep’ campaign.

Now they have Microsoft as clients.

Brands need values

The interesting thing about Cannes this year was that as well as all the freebies done by agencies espousing good causes, say Leo Burnett Toronto’s Silver Press winner for Raising the Roof, there were also a number of campaigns from brands espousing good causes.

The world has changed, noted Andy Fennell, CMO of Diageo in his seminar. “Today, the first question graduates ask when we’re interviewing them is, what’s your policy on corporate responsibility. When I was a grad trainee, it was what sort of car do I get?”

In their search for meaning in their own lives, people now appear to expect brands to have meaning too.

Brands have to work at being trusted. And that means they have to have values, which they can demonstrate and share with their consumers.

The easiest way to do this is to take up a cause.

So Wieden + Kennedy won a Silver Integrated Lion for Levi’s with a campaign that saw the jeans company go into the depressed town of Braddock, Pennsylvania, and help the people there restore dignity to the town by rebuilding parts of it.

Espousing a similar cause, the same agency (but different creative team) came up with the Gold TV Lion idea for Chrysler of bigging up Detroit, Motor City.

This is advertising that uses real people with real problems being helped out in their real lives by brands.

It’s fairly high-risk stuff, I would have thought. The moment Levi’s decide they want to do something else and pull out, leaving Braddock to rot, the chat on the internet will rise to a roar of outrage.

Values have to be real too.

So, if we saw brands wanting to do good by their consumers, one remarkable aspect of Cannes 2011 was seeing examples of brands wanting to do good by their countries.

McCann Erickson Bucharest won the Grand Prix for Direct and the Grand Prix for Promo with a campaign called ‘American Rom’.

Rom is a local chocolate bar, adorned on its wrapper with the Romanian national flag. But sales dropped. Snickers triumphed.

Meanwhile, for young Romanians, life in Romania sucked.

Okay, said the brand. If being American is so great, let’s go American.

They put the stars and stripes on the wrapper and ran ads suggesting that the Americanisation of the country was in everyone’s interests.


Followed by debate, laughter, the demise of Snickers, in that order.

So, here’s a brand feeling it has both the right and the authority to question and re-direct patriotism.

In India, Big Cinemas did the same. Required by law to play the national anthem before every screening, they understood how, in a country of 21 languages, an anthem sung in Hindi could be divisive rather than unifying. So they made a touching film with dozens of children but with no lyrics, just the tune.

Here was a brand, asking people what it meant to be an Indian in the 21st century.

In Argentina, Ogilvy Buenos Aires’ ‘Silhouettes’ campaign won a Silver Media Lion for the Jewish Community Centre. This was to commemorate the deaths in 1994 of 85 people in a terrorist bombing. There is said to have been remarkable indifference to the outrage because “it was Jewish people”.

This campaign, then, asked, why is a Jewish Argentine less of an Argentine than any other?

The Three C’s of modern creativity

Even bigger as causes go, perhaps, was the Tunisian revolution of January 14th.

A hated President was dethroned but a disliked Government remained in power.

Ordinary Tunisians stayed at home waiting to see what would happen next.

When nothing happened, Memac Ogilvy Label brought six clients and five media owners together in an event. On June 16th 2011 they published the news as if the date was June 16th 2014 and Tunisia had grown into a prosperous, successful democracy.

The campaign got people going back to work and the economy functioning as an act of defiance against the government.

In the Naked seminar, Jon Wilkins talked about the traditional processes of advertising have become defunct. Hardly any winning ideas would have been written, researched and refined before going into production. Advertising has to be faster and more agile.

Andy Fennell, CMO of Diageo, made a similar point. “Any idea that takes a year to go from brief to production is a bad idea,” he said.

Community, crowd-sourcing and co-creation, he told a packed Debussy theatre, that’s how you build and disseminate ideas.

The ‘Brand Collective’ initiative from Tunisia looks like the one campaign to make most sense of those c’s.

There’s value in values

As a measure of how important Cannes has become in the wider world of marketing, some of the speakers in 2011 included CEO’s as well as CMO’s.

Among them was Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, who came to talk about his ambition to double Unilever’s profitability.

He proposes to do this through a policy of sustainability, improved products for a world in which populations are booming and new dynamic economies are emerging while those of the old world are submerging.

For this arch-pragmatist, good works are not just about getting consumers to warm to a brand, they are essential for growth.

The role for advertising isn’t just to let people know about his new products but to get people to use them, by changing their behaviours.

Not easy.

My God

If brands are finding it pays to have some higher purpose than mere product benefit, the people watchers among us have been asking, why?

Martin Lindstrom, speaking in the Goviral seminar, offered up an answer. 37% of all conversations now (what people talk about when they meet let alone online chat) is now about brands.

The reason seems to be that as one set of beliefs disappears, another replaces them.

As a neuroscientist, he had conducted a large research project, wiring up people’s brains to watch what happens when they are stimulated.

The question he wanted answered is, do people think of brands they way they used to think about religion? And the answer is yes. They do.

In the search for meaning in our lives, many of our hopes, ambitions, stories and values are based on the brands we admire or aspire to.


Well, Coca-Cola is now selling happiness to the world. And, in one of the more remarkable TV ads of the Festival, even sings a hymn to the better world the brand wants for us.

For every tank built…131,000 cuddly toys are made

For every corrupt person…there are 8,000 who give blood

For every weapons scientist…there are a million moms baking cakes

And the endline?

Believe in a better world, with Coca-Cola.

That’s what most religions want us to do. Believe in better, if we sign up to a number of precepts. One of which is invariably brotherly love.

Let’s call that friendship. And here’s Coke again, winning Gold in Outdoor with the Friendship Machine, a dispenser that offers two Cokes for the price of one. The trick is, it’s twice as tall as normal so you need a friend to be able to take advantage of the offer.

The Nike riots

In the UK this summer there has been a spate of riots. A protest in London rapidly turned into a series of copycat disturbances in many cities and in some towns.

The protest against the shooting of a known gangster by police was almost immediately forgotten. The riots were simply an opportunity to loot and were frequently centred around shops that sold the brands the kids most wanted to possess.

One rioter, quoted in The Guardian, said: “We’re not all gathering for a cause, we’re running down Foot Locker.”

In the Wood Green H&M, it is said that masked agitators were seen trying on the clothes.

The writer Zoe Williams wrtote: “How can you cease to believe in law and order, a moral universe, co-operation, the purpose of existence, and yet still believe in sportswear?”

Remember AIDA? Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. If brands succeed in stoking up the fires of desire among people who simply don’t have the means to buy them legitimately, then the underbelly of consumerism finds itself shockingly exposed.

Paul Polman made the point that sustainability is not just about the environment. It is about fairness.

A sustainable world is one in which the divisions between the haves and the have-nots will not be as pronounced as they are right now.

The person who’s going to change the world is YOU

If there is a God, He must be wondering what we are doing to the world He gave us.

Again and again from the platform came warnings about the future.

Sir Ken Robinson suggested that the resources available on the planet were just about enough to sustain a population of 1.2 billion people, all living at first world levels of consumption.

Since the global population is currently 6 billion and rising, clearly there is a problem.

The solution, he volunteered, will come from creative people.

“You,” Micahel Wolff, Editor of Ad Age, said, with a gesture of his hand towards the audience in the Debussy auditorium.

Great ideas don’t happen because institutions want them to. But because motivated and cussed individuals force them into being.

No better example of this at Cannes 2011 was the young and inspiring Ali Ali of Elephant 7 in Cairo, who spoke at thenetworkone seminar.

After the revolution in Egypt, his fledgling agency had no work. No income. No nothing. But Ali did have an idea.

Since Facebook had been so instrumental in helping the people communicate and collaborate in bringing Mubharak down, he wanted to say thank you.

He got Coca-Cola to sponsor the ‘Likes’ campaign, which is running now.

You can have a look at it at www.

In itself it has many of the virtues of the modern charity ‘ad’ that I’ve been describing.

It started with one person’s zeal.

It involved two brands working together.

It was Coca-Cola sharing its values.

And helping Egyptians celebrate their Egyptianness.

It works only through collaboration and co-creation.

Look out for it at Cannes 2012.

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